The holidays were busier and happier in at least three HSUS households this season, as colleagues stepped up to care for three puppies relinquished by the American Kennels pet store in New York City. The relinquishments of Rocky, an Akita, Rosie, a Morkie and Pogo, a Jack Russell terrier, came on the heels of our recent undercover investigation, which showed that the store was selling sick puppies and failing to provide proper care to sick dogs in the store, resulting in at least one puppy’s death.

The HSUS team members who took puppies in were deeply moved by the experience. “It was heartbreaking to know that these little puppies, just starting out in life, were suffering from so many preventable problems,” says John Goodwin, senior director of the HSUS's Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “I fostered Rocky and my family worked hard to get him back to full health and to give him the first real love he’s felt in his life.”

“It was heartwarming to see Rosie so excited to be able to finally run and play once she was free of that tiny pet store cage,” says Kathleen Summers, director of outreach and research for the HSUS's Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “I have never seen a puppy so excited. Even though she came directly from the pet store already suffering from kennel cough and giardia, her spirit was strong and she was able to recover.”

Our investigation revealed that American Kennels was obtaining puppies from puppy mills and puppy mill brokers. The store released the three puppies to the city after authorities determined the dogs were sourced from puppy mill brokers, or “B dealers,” in apparent violation of city law.

After their relinquishment, the puppies went directly to veterinarians for treatment, and then to our colleagues’ homes where they could receive around the clock care and monitoring. At least four additional puppies surrendered by the store the following week went to local organizations that are part of the HSUS’ Shelter & Rescue placement partner program.

Rocky, an Akita, and Pogo, a Jack Russell terrier, both suffered with kennel cough but are now on the mend, having spent the holiday season in HSUS households.

These adorable holiday guests didn’t come without their issues; like many pet store puppies, they were sick. All three arrived with kennel cough, and two had giardia, a parasite that can be transmitted to humans and to other pets. The oldest puppy, Pogo, at six months old, was found to have lung damage from being sick in the store for weeks on end, as well as having deformed front legs, possibly from spending so many months in a cage.

The puppies are now on the road to recovery and on their way to loving homes.

In addition to requiring that American Kennels relinquish seven puppies the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a “cease and desist” order prohibiting animal sales on December 10. The department modified the order on December 17 to allow the sale of some puppies who were not part of the city’s ongoing investigation.

We’re calling on the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to deny American Kennels a renewal of its pet store license.

While the New York Attorney General’s office has not announced any specific actions yet related to American Kennels, it recently filed a lawsuit against another puppy store, Shake a Paw, alleging that its two locations sold sick and injured puppies to hundreds of consumers.

The retail sales model we’ve championed and celebrated for pet stores encourages adoption of older puppies and dogs from rescues and humane societies, raised and cared for in appropriate circumstances. As we’ve seen and proved, time and again, retail pet stores that keep such animals on their premises for any length of time are unable to meet the animals’ social, emotional, physical and developmental needs. The dogs they keep are forced to live almost constantly in small cages and they do not receive the nurture and veterinary care that ensures their healthy growth and development.

Time may soon run out for New York pet stores seeking to sell puppies due to pending legislation. If you live in New York, please contact your state senator and assemblymember today to encourage their support for S.1130/A. 4283 (The Puppy Mill Pipeline Act).

In 2022, we’ll continue to advance our campaign to shut down the puppy mill to pet store pipeline across this country. Five states and over 400 localities have approved laws prohibiting the sale of puppies in pet stores on animal welfare and consumer protection grounds, and we’re working to protect the right of local governments to take such action. The case is a simple one. Animals like Rocky, Rosie and Pogo are not commodities, they are companions, and our laws should protect them.

Hear more about the American Kennels investigation on our Humane Voices podcast.